Dear 100 Hour Board,
This past Sunday we had a woman come and speak to our Relief Society about dating and being powerful women who support one another. She didn't get married until she was 40 and a lot of her talk was also about not giving up hope while dating.
Here's my problem though: I don't want to be single at 40. I'm 26 and it honestly terrifies me that I may still be single at 30. My parents have completely opposite religious standpoints (which caused me a lot of stress growing up for various reasons) so marrying a LDS guy was always one of my top priorities to avoid that. However, with the general lack of available, worthy guys, it's very difficult to continue to commit to that. I'm a kind, normal, interesting-enough, social person and I'm active in my ward. I've used Mutual but my experience with it has been less than stellar. I feel like I'm doing all that I can but nothing is coming of it.
So here are a few questions:
1) How do I convince myself to be more proactive in dating?
2) Is it worth it to date non-members?
3) This whole process is very frustrating to the point where I'm finding myself to be more critical of the Church. Any suggestions on how to get out of this angry stage?
-meow, who hopes not to offend any other "older" single people out there
1. If you're as eager to date and marry as you say, I'm not sure why you need more convincing. Are you not going on dates at all, or are you going on dates with people you aren't particularly interested in? I guess either way, my advice is that you ask out people you're attracted to. Those dates will give you opportunities to see if the qualities you currently find enticing are the same qualities you would want in a long-term relationship/marriage. If you're having trouble finding men that you're attracted to and meet your worthiness criteria, then do everything in your power to meet more men. Give Mutual another try, or try other online dating options. Go to stake activities or spend a Sunday visiting at a friend's ward. You say that you're interesting, which is good confidence, but try to come across enticing on your interactions. Flirt, tell amusing stories, bat your eyelashes.
2. My grandmother used to say that you marry who you date. It sounds as though marrying an LDS man is very important to you, despite your current frustrations. Personally I've learned a lot about myself and what I want from life by dating non-LDS men, so I encourage you to date whomever you find yourself interested in. But keep in mind that you could date, fall in love, and want to get married with whomever you date. If a temple marriage is what you want, then naturally dating LDS men is going to be a better route. But if you want love and marriage, your field of availability will widen if you don't limit yourself to the church. Figure out what your priorities are and go from there, but I definitely don't think there's any harm in going out with a non-LDS man or two.
3. If you're frustrated with dating, and that resentment is spilling over into other aspects of your life, then maybe you should just take a break from it. I know that's contrary to my other advice, but I think it's an equally viable option. Don't rely on the thought of a future relationship to make you happy. Spend more time with friends, or make more friends. Find more hobbies, or become an expert at existing hobbies. Read classic books you've always wanted to, or binge that TV show everyone keeps recommending. Do something every day to make yourself happy. In the process, you may find that you aren't quite as terrified at the thought of being single.
As far as criticisms of the Church go, you may find benefit in airing them. If you have a Relief Society or Sunday School lesson about dating or marriage, you could express your frustrations or raise the idea that while marriage is a perfectly desirable goal, it's not the only way to be happy. I'm sure you're not alone in your feelings, and other people will probably appreciate your thoughts.
I don't want to be single at 30 or 40 either, but sometimes what we want does not coincide with what God has planned for us. And yeah, that sucks, but if you believe he has a plan for you, take advantage of your singledom. Book a trip without consulting anyone, eat ice cream for dinner, flirt with everyone you see. Do whatever makes you happy, and learn to embrace life whether or not you have a boyfriend. Hopefully that way you'll be happier whether a man comes along or not.
I'm going to attempt an answer, because I could really benefit from thinking about this. You've chosen some interesting words, which I think describe how a lot of people feel. Terrified, stressed, lack, and anger are the ones that stand out to me. I definitely relate.
A few tips:
Be honest. Admit to yourself, and your friends/family that you want a spouse, and be heavy-handed about it. Sometimes it's hard to be loud about a desire to be married/in a relationship. We don't want to be "that person", who seems not to have enough life on their own. Screw that. If you want it, allow yourself to make it a focus. Ask friends to set you up. Say yes to all activities. When you attend these activities set a goal for talking to new people rather than friends. I once set the goal to talk to my friends only 20% of the activity and spend 80% talking to new people. It sucked and I failed. But I talked to 1 new person because of it. If you need to start with an easier goal like 60% friends and 40% new people, that's fine too. Just push yourself.
Get creative. Get curious about people. It's easier to get excited when you have an attitude of self-efficacy, creation, and curiosity. When you're creating your dating experience it becomes a lot more fun. You can make things happen. People are amazing to learn about and it's just such a wonder and an honor to get to know them.
Make a goal. I know it sucks. I'm not usually a goal-oriented person. I almost immediately shut down when someone tells me to set goals. So I don't want any of this to come across like a self-help "steps to success" kind of advice. But no matter how much I hate goal setting, I can't get away from the need to push myself outside my comfort zone. Usually that includes pushing myself outside myself. Marriage is not about ourselves. It's about other people. So lately I've found that the stuff I have to do to date better is also the stuff I have to do to be a better disciple. An example: A goal I found helpful is to pick someone I barely know who I see regularly, and focus on getting to know that one person. I'd try to sit by them at church, say hello first, ask questions. Once I got comfortable with them and conversation was easy, I chose a new person to focus on. I love this because I immediately clam up when I think too much about dating/flirting. This just felt like the right thing to do. It was more about investing in individuals until they knew I was on their side. It helped take the edge off of interactions, and I now feel comfortable asking them out if I ever wanted to. I also get really overwhelmed when I look at a crowded room and think about trying to interact. So it helped me block out the anxiety of approaching a crowd, and focus instead on the presence and existence of this one person. This one guy I thought was kinda cute turned out to be not my type. But because I had made the effort, he knows we're friends and has someone to talk to. He said the other day: "Thanks for being my friends guys. This is the first ward in like eight years I've really felt welcome in."
About the fear, stress, despair (I'll explain that word in a minute), and anger:
It's okay that you feel these things. Rational. Inevitable maybe. It might be weird if you didn't have have to face them in dating. I don't have anything special to say about any of those except for the despair thing. I relate that word strongly to your use of the word lack. I've read in a lot of books, heard in a lot of youtube videos, and been told by a lot of friends that I should never approach dating believing in scarcity. If you believe there is a "general lack of available, worthy guys" you will date differently. That belief does not serve you. It causes you to compromise, undervalue yourself, and be suspicious of the guys that could turn out to be wonderful. I think this belief is also related to something I've identified in myself and in your question. I call it despair. That word is like SUUUPER dramatic and I know that. I freaked me out when it first came to mind1 because I thought it meant rock bottom, total wreckage, absolute hopelessness. But really it just means loss of hope. Believing in lack. Believing in scarcity.
Maybe it's real. Maybe there is a lack of available worthy guys. But it's more subjective than that, and it's also bringing us down to keep thinking that way. Despair is dramatic, but that's exactly what this feeling is. And it takes active effort to replace it with faith.
So, to directly answer your questions:
1) Cultivate hope and faith that what you want really can happen. You can do this by being honest with yourself and others about what you want. Be creative about your approach to dating, be curious. Set goals.
2) Listen to Luciana.
3) I would really encourage you to take it to Heavenly Father. When I've been frustrated with dating and prayed about it, Heavenly Father has never responded with "well The Family Proclamation says...". It has always been comfort and advice about how I can feel better about my life and about Him. He has helped me remove The Church from the equation and get down to what I really want. He has helped me eject the opinions and thoughts of everyone around me. He has taught me to practice faith in Him, in myself, in men in general. He knows what you need to heal and move forward.
1 I was at church. A friend of mine walked in with a wonderful girl, and it was clear they were "together." And freaking dang it hurt. There was this oof-pang that I did not understand. I instantly started running some emotional diagnostics. Why did that hurt? Are you jealous? I'm not jealous. I don't want to date that guy, and they are honestly perfect together. Are you sure you're not jealous? Are you happy for them? No like yeah I'm really sure I'm not jealous. I'm actually really glad this is finally happening for them. It's perfect. And then like really clearly a nether-thought came into my head saying "look up the word despair" and I was like hahaha woahh there. DESPAIR hahaha that's hilarious. so dramatic. And then the Spirit was like "Just go look. It's free." So I looked it up.
noun: the complete loss or absence of hope. verb: lose or be without hope.
It totally hit me, and I instantly knew what had happened. This gorgeous kind happy couple found each other, and though I was outrageously happy for them I didn't have hope for me. I despaired a little. I lost hope for a second that maybe I wouldn't ever have that. And I really think that is the part that hurts in all this. So I worked at it with Heavenly Father. Thanked him for sending the spirit to help me figure that out. Repented and started asking for, studying, and practicing faith. Still working on it, and still despairing every once and a while. But it helped to be honest about what was happening when I get irrationally sad about dating. You gotta have a vision of what you really want, and you gotta have hope that you can have it.
Dear meow, who hopes not to offend any other "older" single people out there,
I doubt you expected to get the perspective of a 31-year-old single queer atheist when you wrote this question, but here we are. Welcome to alumni week!
I have the least satisfying advice of all time: challenge your fear. It terrifies you that you may still be single at 30. Why? I went to BYU too (obviously), and I understand Mormon culture intimately, and so I get it. But really, why are you so afraid? Just because a culture or a belief system places heavy value on something doesn't mean it is worth the kind of intense pressure you are clearly placing on yourself. Don't get swept up in it unchallenged. Don't lose perspective. Men are that they might have joy, yeah? So focus on having joy, today, regardless of this or other circumstances. Take care of yourself. If you fall in love, make sure they are a good and whole person, whoever they are, and make sure you are whole and thriving with or without them. Your life is about more than the family you may someday have.
You are going to have the opportunity yet for a lot of loves. Allow for that, and don't worry so much about forcing it. You only get to ride this rock around our nearest star 80 or so times. Focus on enjoying it and taking excellent care of yourself.
- The Black Sheep, who is the most single she has ever been
I thought I’d be married by the time I was 21. Instead, I went on my first date EVER a few months before turning 21. I thought I’d be married by the time I was 23. Instead, my fiancé called things off and I moved to California to pursue other dreams. I thought I’d be married before I turned 25. Instead I went on a handful of casual dates before finding myself in Taiwan. I thought I wasn’t going to get married, ever. Instead I started dating my husband (who was not a member at the time) soon after telling him I was pretty sure the man I was meant to marry had been hit by a bus and killed in Asia (Fun fact, my husband is from China and has, in fact, seen someone hit and killed by a bus in China). I was 5 months away from turning 30 when we got married. Although by that time he had been baptized, we did not have a temple marriage as had been my life-long dream. In fact, we weren’t sealed until just this past October. It was a long, sometimes difficult path to get to where we are today.
We don’t always want to do things. And in this case, I think Black Sheep has some excellent advice. Face that fear. Chase down some other dreams. Realize that there are worse things in life than being Single. I hate to break it to you, but 30 is really not that old. I shudder to think what I would be like had I married younger. I didn’t even know who I really was then! I didn’t think I could do things just because I wanted to (like work at Disneyland or move overseas by myself).
Alumni Week is a really great time to ask this question, because you get the benefit of a bunch of older writers who can all laugh at the idea of anyone thinking 26 is "old" and hopefully give you some perspective.
Questions about dating non-members are going to be very personal and everyone will have different perspectives. I can only offer that it will let you meet and get to know many more men that can still be good and kind and faithful. There are women who put their entire lives on hold waiting to date the "right kind" of man and find as the years go by they're left with nothing but bitterness at the Church and a hope in the next life. If you're marriage-minded... I say you should make your own choices and live your own life and search for happiness on your own terms, regardless of others' expectations.
But, another point I want to make is those of us well into our 30s have almost all witnessed our friends' divorces, abusive relationships, faith crises, and life-changing experiences by now. You change a lot between 25 and 35, almost as much as you do between 15 and 25. And if there's anything I'd want someone in your place in life to know, it's that marriage is absolutely wonderful but being single is much, much better than being in a bad marriage. In OR out of the church.
You have freedom and opportunity. You have tremendous potential. You can focus on getting to know who you really are. I can't tell you how many friends I know that got married in their early 20s, and by 30 or 35 or 40 realize that they are a completely different person or that their spouse is a completely different person. Now, life happens, and with hard work almost anything can be resolved. And I know people who have had to start over completely and now find themselves happier and healthier than ever before. But it's heartbreaking, soul humbling work. It's infinitely easier to have a firm sense of yourself before getting into a relationship that you'll be happy in for the rest of your life.
Focus on investing into your best self. Define what your life's goals look like. Decide what's negotiable and non-negotiable. This will take years, but will give you the strength to know when to accept what you weren't necessarily looking for, and when to walk away.
You're going to be just fine. You're SO young. You'll make it happen, and when you do you'll look back on this as a process that made you stronger.
It's okay to be afraid. I think it's very natural to fear that someone won't love us enough to want to spend the rest of their life with us. However, I don't think it's healthy to live your life guided by this fear. Control what you can and then let the rest work itself out. And if my life is any evidence, it will work itself out.
-Sunday Night Banter